What’s one of the best ways to ensure you’re stocked with a high-quality, nutrient-rich fridge and pantry? Better than hitting up local farmer’s markets and fantastic produce stands at your grocery – gardening is right outside your own back door!

Don’t let this hobby intimidate you – it can be as simple as an herb garden or just a few tomato seedlings. It is uniquely satisfying to grow some of your own food. It can also have the added benefit of involving your kids to encourage their consumption of more of these items.

If it’s not for you or you’re too strapped for time, we suggest an emphasis on local produce. Fruits and veggies grown closer to home are likely to contain more nutrients. Plus, you’re supporting farmers near you!

How to start your own veggie garden:

Shoot for high-yield veggies

Tomatoes, onions and lettuce are all ‘high yield.’ This means they require the least amount of space and time but give a valuable yield.

Don’t forget about the soil

Plants will draw their nutrition from the soil, so be choosey when selecting this from the store or garden center! You might even consider using organic matter or mulch with straw to improve the ground around your crop.

Set those alarms or notifications for consistent water

Give your plants too little or too much water and you might spoil or starve the plant.

Do a little Digging

Store-bought fruits and veggies can lack flavor simply because they weren’t grown in the right season or region. We want to amplify how these items taste. Do a little ‘digging’ to check what are the best seeds to plant in your area.

Small is OK!

A common recommendation for a beginner vegetable garden is 10′x10′ or 16′x10,′ but you can go as small as 4′x4.’ You might even get away with an indoor or window herb/spice garden for things like basil, parsley or thyme. Even the little plots add up. Having some of these ingredients around at an arm’s reach are helpful for creating dressings, creams and sauces in a moment’s notice. Say goodbye to store-bought pesto or pico de gallo!

Try something new

Finally, another type of produce you might see ‘sprouting’ up on shelves is hydroponic lettuce and greens. These are definitely worth the hype and salad trial. They boast 3-4x as much nutrition compared to conventionally grown greens and often use less water and remove the pesticide problem that we might see with other crops. We’ve personally found that these types of greens and tomatoes even last longer when purchased. This goes a long way when considering your grocery store bill!

Whether you have a green thumb or not, there are plenty of ways to start a garden. Start small and see where things grow from there!

Kayla Hansmann

Kayla Hansmann

B.S., M.S., Dietetic Internship
Kayla Hansmann is a Cincinnati-area dietitian and fitness instructor working with individuals one-on-one, in corporate work-site wellness, as well as various community settings. With experience from Cincinnati Children's Hospital to adult chronic disease management, she is focused on providing comprehensive and personalized nutrition to all individuals in various stages of life to achieve their personal goals and best state of health.